Part 1 out of 7
I AN ANGLO-JAPANESE MARRIAGE
VI ACROSS JAPAN
VII THE EMBASSY
VIII THE HALF-CASTE GIRL
IX ITO SAN
X THE YOSHIWARA WOMEN
XI A GEISHA DINNER
XII FALLEN CHERRY-BLOSSOMS
XIII THE FAMILY ALTAR
XIV THE DWARF TREES
XVI THE GREAT BUDDHA
XVII THE RAINY SEASON
XVIII AMONG THE NIKKO MOUNTAINS
XIX YAE SMITH
XX THE KIMONO
XXI SAYONARA (GOOD-BYE)
XXII FUJINAMI ASAKO
XXIII THE REAL SHINTO
XXIV THE AUTUMN FESTIVAL
XXV JAPANESE COURTSHIP
XXVI ALONE IN TOKYO
XXVII LADY BRANDAN
_Utsutsu wo mo
Utsutsu to sara ni
Yume wo mo yume to
Nani ka omowamu?
Since I am convinced
That Reality is in no way
How am I to admit
That dreams are dreams?_
The verses and translation above are taken from A. Waley's "JAPANESE
POETRY: THE UTA" (Clarendon Press), as are many of the classical
poems placed at the head of the chapters.
AN ANGLO-JAPANESE MARRIAGE
Shiranedo kaki no
Whether the fruit be bitter
Or whether it be sweet,
The first bite tells.
The marriage of Captain the Honourable Geoffrey Barrington and Miss
Asako Fujinami was an outstanding event in the season of 1913. It
was bizarre, it was picturesque, it was charming, it was socially
and politically important, it was everything that could appeal to
the taste of London society, which, as the season advances, is apt to
become jaded by the monotonous process of Hymen in High Life and by
the continued demand for costly wedding presents.
Once again Society paid for its seat at St. George's and for its
glass of champagne and crumb of cake with gifts of gold and silver and
precious stones enough to smother the tiny bride; but for once in a
way it paid with a good heart, not merely in obedience to convention,
but for the sake of participating in a unique and delightful scene, a
touching ceremony, the plighting of East and West.
Would the Japanese heiress be married in a kimono with flowers and
fans fixed in an elaborate _coiffure_? Thus the ladies were wondering
as they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the bride's
procession up the aisle; but, though some even stood on hassocks and
pew seats, few were able to distinguish for certain. She was so very
tiny. At any rate, her six tall bridesmaids were arrayed in Japanese
dress, lovely white creations embroidered with birds and foliage.
It is hard to distinguish anything in the perennial twilight of St.
George's; a twilight symbolic of the new lives which emerge from its
Corinthian portico into that married world about which so much has
been guessed and so little is known.
One thing, however, was visible to all as the pair moved together
up to the altar rails, and that was the size of the bridegroom as
contrasted with the smallness of his bride. He looked like a great
rough bear and she like a silver fairy. There was something intensely
pathetic in the curve of his broad shoulders as he bent over the
little hand to place in its proud position the diminutive golden
circlet which was to unite their two lives.
As they left the church, the organ was playing _Kimi-ga-ya_, the
Japanese national hymn. Nobody recognized it, except the few Japanese
who were present; but Lady Everington, with that exaggeration of the
suitable which is so typical of her, had insisted on its choice as a
voluntary. Those who had heard the tune before and half remembered
it decided that it must come from the "Mikado"; and one stern dowager
went so far as to protest to the rector for permitting such a tune to
desecrate the sacred edifice.
Outside the church stood the bridegroom's brother officers. Through
the gleaming passage of sword-blades, smiling and happy, the strangely
assorted couple entered upon the way of wedlock, as Mr. and Mrs.
Geoffrey Barrington--the shoot of the Fujinami grafted on to one of
the oldest of our noble families.
"Are her parents here?" one lady was asking her neighbour.
"Oh, no; they are both dead, I believe."
"What kind of people are they, do you know? Do Japs have an
aristocracy and society and all that kind of thing?"
"I'm sure I don't know. I shouldn't think so. They don't look real
"She is very rich, anyhow," a third lady intervened, "I've heard they
are big landowners in Tokyo, and cousins of Admiral Togo's."
* * * * *
The opportunity for closer inspection of this curiosity was afforded
by the reception given at Lady Everington's mansion in Carlton House
Terrace. Of course, everybody was there. The great ballroom was draped
with hangings of red and white, the national colours of Japan. Favours
of the same bright hues were distributed among the guests. Trophies
of Union Jacks and Rising Suns were grouped in corners and festooned
above windows and doorways.
Lady Everington was bent upon giving an international importance to
her protegee's marriage. Her original plan had been to invite the
whole Japanese community in London, and so to promote the popularity
of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance by making the most of this opportunity
for social fraternising. But where was the Japanese community in
London? Nobody knew. Perhaps there was none. There was the Embassy, of
course, which arrived smiling, fluent, and almost too well-mannered.
But Lady Everington had been unable to push very far her programme for
international amenities. There were strange little yellow men from
the City, who had charge of ships and banking interests; there were
strange little yellow men from beyond the West End, who studied the
Fine Arts, and lived, it appeared, on nothing. But the hostess could
find no ladies at all, except Countess Saito and the Embassy dames.
Monsieur and Madame Murata from Paris, the bride's guardians, were
also present. But the Orient was submerged beneath the flood of our
rank and fashion, which, as one lady put it, had to take care how it
stepped for fear of crushing the little creatures.
"Why _did_ you let him do it?" said Mrs. Markham to her sister.
"It was a mistake, my dear," whispered Lady Everington, "I meant her
for somebody quite different."
"And you're sorry now?"
"No, I have no time to be sorry--ever," replied that eternally
graceful and youthful Egeria, who is one of London's most powerful
social influences. "It will be interesting to see what becomes of
Lady Everington has been criticised for stony-heartedness, for
opportunism, and for selfish abuse of her husband's vast wealth. She
has been likened to an experimental chemist, who mixes discordant
elements together in order to watch the results, chilling them in ice
or heating them over the fire, until the lives burst in fragments or
the colour slowly fades out of them. She has been called an artist in
_mesalliances_, a mismatch-maker of dangerous cunning, a dangler of
picturesque beggar-maids before romantic-eyed Cophetuas, a daring
promoter of ambitious American girls and a champion of musical comedy
peeresses. Her house has been named the Junior Bachelors Club. The
charming young men who seem to be bound to its hospitable board by
invisible chains are the material for her dashing improvisations and
the _dramatis personae_ of the scores of little domestic comedies
which she likes to keep floating around her in different stages of
Geoffrey Barrington had been the secretary of this club, and a
favourite with the divinity who presided over it. We had all supposed
that he would remain a bachelor; and the advent of Asako Fujinami into
London society gave us at first no reason to change our opinion. But
she was certainly attractive.
* * * * *
She ought to have been married in a kimono. There was no doubt about
it now, when there was more liberty to inspect her, as she stood there
shaking hands with hundreds of guests and murmuring her "Thank you
very much" to the reiterated congratulations.
The white gown was perfectly cut and of a shade to give its full
value to her complexion, a waxen complexion like old ivory or like
a magnolia petal, in which the Mongolian yellow was ever so faintly
discernible. It was a sweet little face, oval and smooth; but it might
have been called expressionless if it had not been for a dimple which
peeped and vanished around a corner of the small compressed mouth, and
for the great deep brown eyes, like the eyes of deer or like pools of
forest water, eyes full of warmth and affection. This was the feature
which struck most of us as we took the opportunity to watch her in
European dress with the glamour of her kimono stripped from her. They
were the eyes of the Oriental girl, a creature closer to the animals
than we are, lit by instinct more often than by reason, and hiding
a soul in its infancy, a repressed, timorous, uncertain thing,
spasmodically violent and habitually secretive and aloof.
Sir Ralph Cairns, the famous diplomat, was talking on this subject to
"The Japanese are extraordinarily quick," he was saying, "the most
adaptable people since the ancient Greeks, whom they resemble in some
ways. But they are more superficial. The intellect races on ahead, but
the heart lingers in the Dark Ages."
"Perhaps intermarriage is the solution of the great racial problem,"
suggested the Professor.
"Never," said the old administrator. "Keep the breed pure, be it
white, black, or yellow. Bastard races cannot flourish. They are waste
The Professor glanced towards the bridal pair.
"And these also?" he asked.
"Perhaps," said Sir Ralph, "but in her case her education has been so
Hereupon, Lady Everington approaching, Sir Ralph turned to her and
"Dear lady, let me congratulate you: this is your masterpiece."
"Sir Ralph," said the hostess, already looking to see which of her
guests she would next pounce upon, "You know the East so well. Give
me one little piece of advice to hand over to the children before they
start on their honeymoon."
Sir Ralph smiled benignly.
"Where are they going?" he asked.
"Everywhere," replied Lady Everington, "they are going to travel."
"Then let them travel all over the world," he answered, "only not to
Japan. That is their Bluebeard's cupboard; and into that they must not
There was more discussion of bridegroom and bride than is usual at
society weddings, which are apt to become mere reunions of fashionable
people, only vaguely conscious of the identity of those in whose
honour they have been gathered together.
"Geoffrey Barrington is such a healthy barbarian," said a pale young
man with a monocle; "if it had been a high-browed child of culture
like you, Reggie, with a taste for exotic sensations, I should hardly
have been surprised."
"And if it had been you, Arthur," replied Reggie Forsyth of the
Foreign Office, who was Barrington's best man, "I should have known
at once that it was the twenty thousand a year which was the supreme
There was a certain amount of Anglo-Indian sentiment afloat among
the company, which condemned the marriage entirely as an outrage on
"What was Brandan dreaming of," snorted General Haslam, "to allow his
son to marry a yellow native?"
"Dreaming of the mortgage on the Brandan property, I expect, General,"
answered Lady Rushworth.
"It's scandalous," foamed the General, "a fine young fellow, a fine
officer, too! His career ruined for an undersized _geisha_!"
"But think of the millions of _yens_ or _sens_ or whatever they are,
with which she is going to re-gild the Brandan coronet!"
"That wouldn't console me for a yellow baby with slit eyes," continued
the General, his voice rising in debate as his custom was at the
"Hush, General!" said his interlocutor, "we don't discuss such
"But everybody here must be thinking of them, except that unfortunate
"We never say what we are thinking, General; it would be too
"And we are to have a Japanese Lord Brandan, sitting in the House of
Lords?" the General went on.
"Yes, among the Jews, Turks, and Armenians, who are there already,"
Lady Rushworth answered, "an extra Oriental will never be noticed. It
will only be another instance of the course of Empire taking its way
* * * * *
In the Everington dining-room the wedding presents were displayed. It
looked more like the interior of a Bond Street shop where every kind
of _article de luxe_, useful and useless, was heaped in plenty.
Perhaps the only gift which had cost less than twenty pounds was Lady
Everington's own offering, a photograph of herself in a plain silver
frame, her customary present when one of her protegees was married
under her immediate auspices.
"My dear," she would say, "I have enriched you by several thousands of
pounds. I have introduced you to the right people for present-giving
at precisely the right moment previous to your wedding, when they know
you neither too little nor too much. By long experience I have
learnt to fix it to a day. But I am not going to compete with this
undistinguished lavishness. I give you my picture to stand in
your drawing-room as an artist puts his signature to a completed
masterpiece, so that when you look around upon the furniture, the
silver, the cut glass, the clocks, the engagement tablets, and the
tantalus stands, the offerings of the rich whose names you have
long ago forgotten, then you will confess to yourself in a burst of
thankfulness to your fairy godmother that all this would never have
been yours if it had not been for her!"
In a corner of the room and apart from the more ostentatious homage,
stood on a small table a large market-basket, in which was lying a
huge red fish, a roguish, rollicking mullet with a roving eye, all
made out of a soft crinkly silk. In the basket beneath it were rolls
and rolls of plain silk, red and white. This was an offering from
the Japanese community in London, the conventional wedding present of
every Japanese home from the richest to the poorest, varying only
in size and splendour. On another small table lay a bundle of brown
objects like prehistoric axe heads, bound round with red and white
string, and vaguely odorous of bloater-paste. These were dried flesh
of the fish called _katsuobushi_ by the Japanese, whose absence also
would have brought misfortune to the newly married. Behind them, on
a little tray, stood a miniature landscape representing an aged
pine-tree by the sea-shore and a little cottage with a couple of old,
old people standing at its door, two exquisite little dolls dressed
in rough, poor kimonos, brown and white. The old man holds a rake,
and the old woman holds a broom. They have very kindly faces and white
silken hair. Any Japanese would recognise them at once as the Old
People of Takasago, the personification of the Perfect Marriage.
They are staring with wonder and alarm at the Brandan sapphires,
a monumental _parure_ designed for the massive state of some
Early-Victorian Lady Brandan.
Asako Fujinami had spent days rejoicing over the arrival of her
presents, little interested in the identity of the givers but
fascinated by the things themselves. She had taken hours to arrange
them in harmonious groups. Then a new gift would arrive which would
upset the balance, and she would have to begin all over again.
Besides this treasury in the dining-room, there were all her
clothes, packed now for the honeymoon, a whole wardrobe of fairy-like
disguises, wonderful gowns of all colours and shapes and materials.
These, it is true, she had bought herself. She had always been
surrounded by money; but it was only since she had lived with Lady
Everington that she had begun to learn something about the thousand
different ways of spending it, and all the lovely things for which it
can be exchanged. So all her new things, whatever their source, seemed
to her like presents, like unexpected enrichments. She had basked
among her new acquisitions, silent as was her wont when she was happy,
sunning herself in the warmth of her prosperity. Best of all, she
never need wear kimonos again in public. Her fiance had acceded to
this, her most immediate wish. She could dress now like the girls
around her. She would no longer be stared at like a curio in a shop
window. Inquisitive fingers would no longer clutch at the long sleeves
of, crinkled silk, or try to probe the secret of the huge butterfly
bow on her back. She could step out fearlessly now like English women.
She could give up the mincing walk and the timid manner which she felt
was somehow inseparable from her native dress.
When she told her protectress that Geoffrey had consented to its
abandonment, Lady Everington had heaved a sigh.
"Poor Kimono!" she said, "it has served you well. But I suppose a
soldier is glad to put his uniform away when the fighting is over.
Only, never forget the mysterious power of the uniform over the other
Another day when her Ladyship had been in a bad mood, she had
"Put those things away, child, and keep to your kimono. It is your
natural plumage. In those borrowed plumes you look undistinguished and
* * * * *
The Japanese Ambassador to the Court of St. James proposed the health
of the bride and bridegroom. Count Saito was a small, wise man, whom
long sojourn in European countries had to some extent de-orientalised.
His hair was grizzled, his face was seamed, and he had a peering way
of gazing through his gold-rimmed spectacles with head thrust forward
like a man half blind, which he certainly was not.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "it is a great pleasure for me to
be present on this occasion, for I think this wedding is a personal
compliment to myself and to my work in this splendid country. Mr. and
Mrs. Geoffrey Barrington are the living symbols of the Anglo-Japanese
Alliance; and I hope they will always remember the responsibility
resting on their shoulders. The bride and bridegroom of to-day must
feel that the relations of Great Britain and Japan depend upon the
perfect harmony of their married life. Ladies and gentlemen, let us
drink long life and happiness to Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Barrington, to
the Union Jack and to the Rising Sun!"
The toast, was drunk and three cheers were given, with an extra cheer
for Mrs. Geoffrey. The husband, who was no hand at speechmaking,
replied--and his good-natured voice was quite thick with emotion--that
it was awfully good of them all to give his wife and himself such a
ripping send-off, and awfully good of Sir George and Lady Everington
especially, and awfully good of Count Saito; and that he was the
happiest man in the world and the luckiest, and that his wife had told
him to tell them all that she was the happiest woman, though he really
did not see why she should be. Anyhow, he would do his best to give
her a jolly good time. He thanked his friends for their good wishes
and for their beautiful presents. They had had jolly good times
together, and, in return for all their kindness, he and his wife
wanted to wish them all a jolly good time.
So spoke Geoffrey Barrington; and at that moment many people present
must have felt a pang of regret that this fine specimen of England's
young manhood should marry an oriental. He was over six feet high. His
broad shoulders seemed to stoop a little with the lazy strength of a
good-tempered carnivore, of Una's lion, and his face, which was almost
round, was set off by a mane of the real lion colour. He wore his
moustache rather longer than was the fashion. It was a face which
seemed ready to laugh at any moment--or else to yawn. For there
was about the man's character and appearance something indolent and
half-awakened and much of the schoolboy. Yet he was over thirty. But
there is always a tendency for Army life to be merely a continuation
of public-school existence. Eton merges into Sandhurst, and Sandhurst
merges into the regiment. One's companions are all the time men of
the same class and of the same ideas. The discipline is the same,
the conventionality and the presiding fetish of Good and Bad Form. So
many, generals are perennial school boys. They lose their freshness,
that is all.
But Geoffrey Barrington had not lost his freshness. This was his great
charm, for he certainly was not quick or witty. Lady Everington said
that she kept him as a disinfectant to purify the atmosphere.
"This house," she declared, "sometimes gets over-scented with
tuberoses. Then I open the window and let Geoffrey Barrington in!"
He was the only son of Lord Brandan and heir to that ancient but
impoverished title. He had been brought up to the idea that he must
marry a rich wife. He neither jibbed foolishly at the proposal, nor
did he surrender lightly to any of the willing heiresses who threw
themselves at his head. He accepted his destiny with the fatalism
which every soldier must carry in his knapsack, and took up his post
as Mars in attendance in Lady Everington's drawing-room, recognising
that there lay the strategic point for achieving his purpose. He was
not without hope, too, that besides obtaining the moneybags he might
be so fortunate as to fall in love with the possessor of them.
Asako Fujinami, whom he had first met at dinner, at Lady Everington's,
had crossed his mind just like an exquisite bar of melody. He made no
comments at the time, but he could not forget her. The haunting tune
came back to him again and again. By the time that she had floated in
his arms through three or four dances, the spell had worked. _La belle
dame sans merci_, the enchantress who lurks in every woman, had him
in thrall. Her simplest observations seemed to him to be pearls of
wisdom, her every movement a triumph of grace.
"Reggie," he said to his friend Forsyth, "what do you think of that
little Japanese girl?"
Reggie, who was a diplomat by profession and a musician by the grace
of God, and whose intuition was almost feminine especially where
Geoffrey was concerned, answered,--
"Why, Geoffrey, are you thinking of marrying her?"
"By Jove!" exclaimed his friend, starting at the thought as at a
discovery; "but I, don't think she'd have me. I'm not her sort."
"You never can tell," suggested Reggie mischievously; "She is quite
unspoilt, and she has twenty thousand a year. She is unique. You could
not possibly get her confused with somebody else's wife, as so many
people seem to do when they get married. Why not try?"
Reggie thought that such a mating was impossible, but it amused him
to play with the idea. As for Lady Everington, who knew every one so
well, and who thought that she knew them perfectly, she never guessed.
"I think, Geoffrey, that you like to be seen with Asako," she said,
"just to point the contrast."
Her confession to her sister, Mrs. Markham, was the truth. She had
made a mistake; she had destined Asako for somebody quite different.
It was the girl herself who had been the first to enlighten her. She
came to her hostess's boudoir one evening before the labours of the
"Lady Georgie," she had said--Lady Everington is Lady Georgie to
all who know her even a little. "_Il faut que je vous dise quelque
chose_." The girl's face glanced downward and sideways, as her habit
was when embarrassed.
When Asako spoke in French it meant that something grave was afoot.
She was afraid that her unsteady English might muddle what she
intended to say. Lady Everington knew that it must be another
proposal; she had already dealt with three.
"_Eh bien, cette fois qui est-il?_" she asked.
"_Le capitaine Geoffroi_" answered Asako. Then her friend knew that it
"What did you say to him?" she demanded.
"I tell him he must ask you."
"But why drag me into it? It's your own affair."
"In France and in Japan," said Asako, "a girl do not say Yes and No
herself. It is her father and her mother who decide. I have no father
or mother; so I think he must ask you."
"And what do you want me to say?"
For answer Asako gently squeezed the elder woman's hand, but Lady
Georgie was in no mood to return the pressure. The girl at once felt
the absence of the response, and said,--
"What, you do not like the _capitaine Geoffroi_?"
But her fairy godmother answered bitterly,--
"On the contrary, I have a considerable affection for Geoffrey."
"Then," cried Asako, starting up, "you think I am not good enough for
him. It's because I'm--not English."
She began to cry. In spite of her superficial hardness, Lady
Everington has a very tender heart. She took the girl in her arms.
"Dearest child," she said, raising the little, moist face to hers,
"don't cry. In England we answer this great question ourselves. Our
fathers and mothers and fairy godmothers have to concur. If Geoffrey
Barrington has asked you to marry him, it is because he loves you. He
does not scatter proposals like calling-cards, as some young men do.
In fact, I have never heard of him proposing to anyone before. He does
not want you to say 'No', of course. But are you quite ready to say
'Yes'? Very well, wait a fortnight, and don't see more of him than you
can help in the meantime. Now, let them send for my _masseuse_. There
is nothing so exhausting to the aged as the emotions of young people."
That evening, when Lady Everington met Geoffrey at the theatre, she
took him severely to task for treachery, secrecy and decadence. He,
was very humble and admitted all his faults except the last, pleading
as his excuse that he could not get Asako out of his head.
"Yes, that is a symptom," said her Ladyship; "you are clearly
stricken. So I fear I am too late to effect a rescue. All I can do
is to congratulate you both. But, remember, a wife is not nearly so
fugitive as a melody, unless she is the wrong kind of wife."
It was a wrench for the little lady to part with the oldest of
her friendships, and to give up her Geoffrey to the care of this
decorative stranger whose qualities were unknown, and undeveloped. But
she knew what the answer would be at the end of the fortnight. So she
steeled her nerves to laugh at her friends commiserations and to make
the marriage of her godchildren one of the season's successes. It
would certainly be an interesting addition to her museum of domestic
* * * * *
There was one person whom Lady Everington was determined to pump for
information on that wedding-day, and had drawn into the net of her
invitations for this very purpose. It was Count Saito, the Japanese
She cornered him as he was admiring the presents, and whisked him away
to the silence and twilight of her husband's study.
"I am so glad you were able to come, Count Saito," she began. "I
suppose you know the Fujinamis, Asako's relatives in Tokyo?"
"No, I do not know them." His Excellency answered, but his tone
conveyed to the lady's instinct that he personally would not wish to
"But you know the name, do you not?"
"Yes, I have heard the name; there are many families called Fujinami
"Are they very rich?"
"Yes, I believe there are some who are very rich," said the little
diplomat, who clearly was ill at ease.
"Where does their money come from?" his inquisitor went on
remorselessly, "You are keeping something from me, Count Saito. Please
be frank, if there is any mystery."
"Oh no, Lady Everington, there is no mystery, I am sure. There is one
family of Fujinami who have many houses and lands in Tokyo and other
towns. I will be quite open with you. They are rather what you in
England call _nouveaux riches_."
"Really!" Her Ladyship was taken aback for a moment. "But you would
never notice it with Asako, would you? I mean, she does not drop her
Japanese aitches, and that sort of thing, does she?"
"Oh no," Count Saito reassured her, "I do not think Mademoiselle Asako
talks Japanese language, so she cannot drop her aitches."
"I never thought of that," his hostess continued, "I thought that if a
Japanese had money, he must be a _daimyo_, or something."
The Ambassador smiled.
"English people," he said, "do not know very well the true condition
of Japan. Of course we have our rich new families and our poor old
families just as you have in England. In some aspects our society is
just the same as yours. In others, it is so, different, that you would
lose your way at once in a maze of ideas which would seem to you quite
Lady Everington interrupted his reflections in a desperate attempt to
get something out of him by a surprise attack.
"How interesting," she said, "it will be for Geoffrey Harrington and
his wife to visit Japan and find out all about it."
The Ambassador's manner changed.
"No, I do not think," he said, "I do not think that is a good thing at
all. They must not do that. You must not let them."
"But why not?"
"I say to all Japanese men and women who live a long time in foreign
countries or who marry foreign people, 'Do not go back to Japan,'
Japan is like a little pot and the foreign world is like a big garden.
If you plant a tree from the pot into the garden and let it grow, you
cannot put it back into the pot again."
"But, in this case, that is not the only reason," objected Lady
"No, there are many other reasons too," the Ambassador admitted; and
he rose from his sofa, indicating that the interview was at an end.
* * * * *
The bridal pair left in a motor-car for Folkestone tinder a hailstorm
of rice, and with the propitious white slipper dangling from the
When all her guests were gone, Lady Everington fled to her boudoir and
collapsed in a little heap of sobbing finery on the broad divan. She
was overtired, no doubt; but the sense of her mistake lay heavy upon
her, and the feeling that she had sacrificed to it her best friend,
the most humanly valuable of all the people who resorted to her house.
An evil cloud of mystery hung over the young marriage, one of those
sinister unfamiliar forces which travellers bring home from the East,
the curse of a god or a secret poison or a hideous disease.
It would be so natural for those two to want to visit Japan and to
know their second home. Yet both Sir Ralph Cairns and Count Saito, the
only two men that day who knew anything about the real conditions,
had insisted that such a visit would be fatal. And who were these
Fujinamis whom Count Saito knew, but did not know? Why had she, who
was so socially careful, taken so much for granted just because Asako
was a Japanese?
_Asa no kami
Ware wa kezuraji
Kimi ga ta-makura
Fureteshi mono wo._
(My) morning sleep hair
I will not comb;
For it has been in contact with
The pillowing hand of
My beautiful Lord!
The Barringtons left England for a prolonged honeymoon, for Geoffrey
was now free to realise his favourite project of travelling abroad.
So they became numbered among that shoal of English people out of
England, who move restless leisure between Paris and the Nile.
Geoffrey had resigned his commission in the army. His friends thought
that this was a mistake. For the loss of a man's career, even when it
is uncongenial to him, is a serious amputation, and entails a lesion
of spiritual blood. He had refused his father's suggestion of settling
down in a house on the Brandan estate, for Lord Brandan was an
unpleasing old gentleman, a frequenter of country bars and country
barmaids. His son wished to keep his young bride as far away as
possible from a spectacle of which he was heartily ashamed.
First of all they went to Paris, which Asako adored; for was it not
her home? But this time she made the acquaintance of a Paris unknown
to her, save by rumour, in the convent days or within the discreet
precincts of Monsieur Murata's villa. She was enchanted by the
theatres, the shops, the restaurants, the music, and the life which
danced around her. She wanted to rent an _appartement_, and to live
there for the rest of her existence.
"But the season is almost over," said her husband; "everybody will be
Unaccustomed as yet to his freedom, he still felt constrained to do
the same as Everybody.
Before leaving Paris, they paid a visit to the Auteuil villa, which
had been Asako's home for so many years.
Murata was the manager of a big Japanese firm in Paris. He had spent
almost all his life abroad and the last twenty years of it in the
French capital, so that even in appearance, except for his short
stature and his tilted eyes, he had come to look like a Frenchman with
his beard _a l'imperiale_, and his quick bird-like gestures. His wife
was a Japanese, but she too had lost almost all traces of her native
Asako Fujinami had been brought to Paris by her father, who had died
there while still a young man. He had entrusted his only child to the
care of the Muratas with instructions that she should be educated in
European ways and ideas, that she should hold no communication with
her relatives in Japan, and that eventually a white husband should be
provided for her. He had left his whole fortune in trust for her, and
the interest was forwarded regularly to M. Murata by a Tokyo lawyer,
to be used for her benefit as her guardian might deem best. This money
was to be the only tie between Asako and her native land.
To cut off a child from its family, of which by virtue of vested
interests it must still be an important member, was a proceeding
so revolutionary to all respectable Japanese ideas that even the
enlightened Murata demurred. In Japan the individual counts for
so little, the family for so much. But Fujinami had insisted, and
disobedience to a man's dying wish brings the curse of a "rough ghost"
upon the recalcitrant, and all kinds of evil consequences.
So the Muratas took Asako and cherished her as much as their hearts,
withered by exile and by unnatural living, were capable of
cherishing anything. She became a daughter of the well-to-do French
_bourgeoisie_, strictly but affectionately disciplined with the proper
restraints on the natural growth of her brain and individuality.
Geoffrey Barrington was not very favourably impressed by the Murata
household. He wondered how so bright a little flower as Asako could
have been reared in such gloomy surroundings. The spirits dominant in
the villa were respectable economy and slavish imitation of the tastes
and habits of Parisian friends. The living-rooms were as impersonal as
the rooms of a boarding-house. Neutral tints abounded, ugly browns
and nightmare vegetable patterns on carpets, furniture and wallpapers.
There was a marked tendency towards covers, covers for the chairs
and sofas, tablecloths and covers for the tablecloths, covers for
cushion-covers, antimacassars, lamp-stands, vase-stands and every kind
of decorative duster. Everywhere the thick smell of concealed grime
told of insufficient servants and ineffective sweeping. There was not
one ornament or picture which recalled Japan, or gave a clue to the
personal tastes of the owners.
Geoffrey had expected to be the nervous witness of an affecting scene
between his wife and her adopted parents. But no, the greetings were
polite and formal. Asako's frock and jewellery were admired, but
without that note of angry envy which often brightens the dullest talk
between ladies in England. Then, they sat down to an atrocious lunch
eaten in complete silence.
When the meal was over, Murata drew Geoffrey aside into his shingly
"I think that you will be content with our Asa San," he said; "the
character is still plastic. In England it is different; but in France
and in Japan we say it is the husband who must make the character of
his wife. She is the plain white paper; let him take his brush and
write on it what he will. Asa San is a very sweet girl. She is very
easy to manage. She has a beautiful disposition. She does not tell
lies without reason. She does not wish to make strange friends. I do
not think you will have trouble with her."
"He talks about her rather as if she were a horse," thought Geoffrey.
Murata went on,--
"The Japanese woman is the ivy which clings to the tree. She does not
wish to disobey."
"You think Asako is still very Japanese, then?" asked Geoffrey.
"Not her manners, or her looks, or even her thoughts," replied Murata,
"but nothing can change the heart."
"Then do you think she is homesick sometimes for Japan?" said her
"Oh no," smiled Murata. The little wizened man was full of smiles.
"She left Japan when she was not two years old. She remembers nothing
"I think one day we shall go to Japan," said Geoffrey, "when we get
tired of Europe, you know. It is a wonderful country, I am told;
and it does not seem right that Asako should know nothing about it.
Besides, I should like to look into her affairs and find out about her
Murata was staring at his yellow boots with an embarrassed air. It
suddenly struck the Englishman that he, Geoffrey Harrington, was
related to people who looked like that, and who now had the right to
call him cousin. He shivered.
"You can trust her lawyers," said the Japanese, "Mr. Ito is an old
friend of mine. You may be quite certain that Asako's money is safe."
"Oh yes, of course," assented Geoffrey, "but what exactly are her
investments? I think I ought to know."
Murata began to laugh nervously, as all Japanese do when embarrassed.
"_Mon Dieu_!" he exclaimed, "but I do not know myself. The money has
been paid regularly for nearly twenty years; and I know the Fujinami
are very rich. Indeed, Captain Barrington, I do not think Asako would
like Japan. It was her father's last wish that she should never return
"But why?" asked Geoffrey. He felt that Murata was keeping something
from him. The little man answered,--
"He thought that for a woman the life is more happy in Europe; he
wished Asako to forget altogether that she was Japanese."
"Yes, but now she is married and her future is fixed. She is not going
back permanently to Japan, but just to see the country. I think we
would both of us like to. People say it is a magnificent country."
"You are very kind," said Murata, "to speak so of my country. But the
foreign people who marry Japanese are happy if they stay in their own
country, and Japanese who marry foreigners are happy if they go away
from Japan. But if they stay in Japan they are not happy. The national
atmosphere in Japan is too strong for those people who are not
Japanese or are only half Japanese. They fade. Besides life in Japan
is very poor and rough. I do not like it myself."
Somehow Geoffrey could not accept these as being the real reasons. He
had never had a long talk with a Japanese man before; but he felt that
if they were all like that, so formal, so unnatural, so secretive,
then he had better keep out of the range of Asako's relatives.
He wondered what his wife really thought of the Muratas, and during
the return to their hotel, he asked,--
"Well, little girl, do you want to go back again and live at Auteuil?"
She shook her head.
"But it is nice to think you have always got an extra home in Paris,
isn't it?" he went on, fishing for an avowal that home was in his arms
only, a kind of conversation which was the wine of life to him at that
"No," she answered with a little shudder, "I don't call that home."
Geoffrey's conventionality was a little bit shocked at this lack
of affection; he was also disappointed at not getting exactly the
"Why, what was wrong with it?" he asked.
"Oh, it was not pretty or comfortable," she said, "they were so afraid
to spend money. When I wash my hands, they say, 'Do not use too much
soap; it is waste.'"
* * * * *
Asako was like a little prisoner released into the sunlight. She
dreaded the idea of being thrust back into darkness again.
In this new life of hers anything would have made her happy, that is
to say, anything new, anything given to her, anything good to eat or
drink, anything soft and shimmery to wear, anything--so long as her
big husband was with her. He was the most fascinating of all her
novelties. He was much nicer than Lady Everington; for he was not
always saying, "Don't," or making clever remarks, which she could not
understand. He gave her absolutely her own way, and everything that
she admired. He reminded her of an old Newfoundland dog who had been
her slave when she was a little girl.
He used to play with her as he would have played with a child,
watching her as she tried on her finery, hiding things for her to
find, holding them over her head and making her jump for them like
a puppy, arranging her ornaments for her in those continual private
exhibitions which took up so much of her time. Then she would ring the
bell and summon all the chambermaids within call to come and admire;
and Geoffrey would stand among all these womenfolk, listening to the
chorus of "_Mon Dieu!_" and "_Ah, que c'est beau!_" and "_Ah, qu'elle
est gentille!_" like some Hector who had strayed into the _gynaeceum_
of Priam's palace. He felt a little foolish, perhaps, but very happy,
happy in his wife's naive happiness and affection, which did not
require any mental effort to understand, nor that panting pursuit
on which he had embarked more than once in order to keep up with the
witty flirtatiousness of some of the beauties of Lady Everington's
Happiness shone out of Asako like light. But would she always be
happy? There were the possibilities of the future to be reckoned
with, sickness, childbirth, and the rearing of children, the hidden
development of the character which so often grows away from what
it once cherished, the baleful currents of outside influences, the
attraction and repulsion of so-called friends and enemies all of which
complicate the primitive simplicity of married life and forfeit the
honeymoon Eden. Adam and Eve in the garden of the Creation can hear
the voice of God whispering in the evening breeze; they can live
without jars and ambitions, without suspicion and without reproaches.
They have no parents, no parents-in-law, no brothers, sisters,
aunts, or guardians, no friends to lay the train of scandal or to
be continually pulling them from each other's arms. But the first
influence which crosses the walls of their paradise, the first being
to whom they speak, which possesses the semblance of a human voice,
is most certainly Satan and that Old Serpent, who was a liar and a
slanderer from the beginning, and whose counsels will lead inevitably
to the withdrawal of God's presence and to the doom of a life of pain
There was one cloud in the heaven of their happiness. Geoffrey was
inclined to tease Asako about her native country. His ideas about
Japan were gleaned chiefly from musical comedies. He would call his
wife Yum Yum and Pitti Sing. He would fix the end of one of her black
veils under his hat, and would ask her whether she liked him better
with a pigtail.
"Captain Geoffrey," she would complain, "it is the Chinese who wear
the pigtail; they are a very savage people."
Then he would call her his little _geisha_, and this she resented;
for she knew from the Muratas that _geisha_ were bad women who took
husbands away from their wives, and that was no joking matter.
"What nonsense!" exclaimed Geoffrey, taken aback by this sudden
reproof: "they are dear little things like you, darling, and they
bring you tea and wave fans behind your head, and I would like to have
twenty of them--to wait upon you!"
He would tease her about a supposed fondness for rice, for
chop-sticks, for paper umbrellas and _jiujitsu._ She liked him to
tease her, just as a child likes to be teased, while all the time
on the verge of tears. With Asako, tears and laughter were never far
"Why do you tease me because I am Japanese?" she would sob; "besides,
I'm not really. I can't help it. I can't help it!"
"But, sweetheart," her Captain Geoffrey would say, suddenly ashamed
of his elephantine humour, "there's nothing to cry about. I would be
proud to be a Japanese. They are jolly brave people. They gave the
Russians a jolly good hiding."
It made her feel well to hear him praise her people, but she would
"No, no, they're not. I don't want to be a Jap. I don't like them.
They're ugly and spiteful. Why can't we choose what we are? I would be
an English girl--or perhaps French," she added, thinking of the Rue de
* * * * *
They left Paris and went to Deauville; and here it was that the
serpent first crawled into Eden, whispering of forbidden fruit.
These serpents were charming people, amusing men and smart women, all
anxious to make the acquaintance of the latest sensation, the Japanese
millionairess and her good-looking husband.
Asako lunched with them and dined with them and sat with them near the
sea in wonderful bathing costumes which it would be a shame to wet.
Conscious of the shortcomings of her figure as compared with those
of the lissom mermaids who surrounded her, Asako returned to kimonos,
much to her husband's surprise; and the mermaids had to confess
She listened to their talk and learned a hundred things, but another
hundred at least remained hidden from her.
Geoffrey left his wife to amuse herself in the cosmopolitan society of
the French watering-place. He wanted this. All the wives whom he
had ever known seemed to enjoy themselves best when away from their
husbands' company. He did not quite trust the spirit of mutual
adoration, which the gods had given to him and his bride. Perhaps it
was an unhealthy symptom. Worse still, it might be Bad Form. He wanted
Asako to be natural and to enjoy herself, and not to make their love
into a prison house.
But he felt a bit lonely when he was away from her. Occupation did not
seem to come easily to him as it did when she was there to suggest it.
Sometimes he would loaf up and down on the esplanade; and sometimes he
would take strenuous swims in the sea. He became the prey of the bores
who haunt every seaside place at home and abroad, lurking for lonely
and polite people upon whom they may unload their conversation.
All these people seemed either to have been in Japan themselves or to
have friends and relations who knew the country thoroughly.
A wonderful land, they assured him. The nation of the future, the
Garden of the East, but of course Captain Barrington knew Japan
well. No, he had never been there? Ah, but Mrs. Barrington must have
described it all to him. Impossible! Really? Not since she was a baby?
How very extraordinary! A charming country, so quaint, so original,
so picturesque, such a place to relax in; and then the Japanese girls,
the little _mousmes_, in their bright kimonos, who came fluttering
round like little butterflies, who were so gentle and soft and
grateful; but there! Captain Barrington was a married man, that was no
affair of his. Ha! Ha!
The elderly _roues_, who buzzed like February flies in the sunshine
of Deauville, seemed to have particularly fruity memories of tea-house
sprees and oriental philanderings under the cherry-blossoms of
Yokohama. Evidently, Japan was just like the musical comedies.
Geoffrey began to be ashamed of his ignorance concerning his wife's
native country. Somebody had asked him, what exactly _bushido_ was. He
had answered at random that it was made of rice and curry powder. By
the hilarious reception given to this explanation he knew that he must
have made a _gaffe_. So he asked one of the more erudite bores to give
him the names of the best books about Japan. He would "mug it up,"
and get some answers off pat to the leading questions. The erudite
one promptly lent him some volumes by Lafcadio Hearn and Pierre Loti's
_Madame Chrysantheme_. He read the novel first of all. Rather spicy,
Asako found the book. It was an illustrated edition; and the little
drawings of Japanese scenes pleased her immensely, so that she began
to read the letter press.
"It is the story of a bad man and a bad woman," she said; "Geoffrey,
why do you read bad things? They bring bad conditions."
Geoffrey smiled. He was wondering whether the company of the
fictitious _Chrysantheme_ was more demoralizing than that of the
actual Mme. Laroche Meyerbeer, with whom his wife had been that day
for a picnic lunch.
"Besides, it isn't fair," his wife continued. "People read that book
and then they think that all Japanese girls are bad like that."
"Why, darling, I didn't think you had read it," Geoffrey expostulated,
"who has been telling you about it?"
"The Vicomte de Brie," Asako answered. "He called me _Chrysantheme_
and I asked him why."
"Oh, did he?" said Geoffrey. Really it was time to put an end to
lunch picnics and mermaidism. But Asako was so happy and so shiningly
She returned to her circle of admirers, and Geoffrey to his studies of
the Far East. He read the Lafcadio Hearn books, and did not perceive
that he was taking opium. The wonderful sentences of that master of
prose poetry rise before the eyes in whorls of narcotic smoke. They
lull the brain as in a dream, and form themselves gradually into
visions of a land more beautiful than any land that has ever existed
anywhere, a country of vivid rice plains and sudden hills, of gracious
forests and red temple gateways, of wise priests and folk-lore
imagery, of a simple-hearted smiling people with children bright as
flowers laughing and playing in unfailing sunlight, a country where
everything is kind, gentle, small, neat, artistic, and spotlessly
clean, where men become gods not by sudden apotheosis but by the easy
processes of nature, a country, in short, which is the reverse of our
own poor vexed continent where the monstrous and the hideous multiply
One afternoon Geoffrey was lounging on the terrace of the hotel
reading _Kokoro_, when his attention was attracted by the arrival of
Mme. Laroche Meyerbeer's motor-car with Asako, her hostess and another
woman embedded in its depths. Asako was the first to leap out. She
went up to her apartment without looking to right or left, and before
her husband had time to reach her. Mme. Meyerbeer watched this arrow
flight and shrugged her shoulders before lazily alighting.
"Is all well?" asked Geoffrey.
"No serious damage," smiled the lady, who is known in Deauville as
_Madame Cythere_, "but you had better go and console her. I think she
has seen the devil for the first time."
He opened the door of their sunny bedroom, and found Asako packing
feverishly, and sobbing in spasms.
"My poor little darling," he said, lifting her in his arms, "whatever
is the matter?"
He laid her on the sofa, took off her hat, and loosened her dress,
until gradually she became coherent.
"He tried to kiss me," she sobbed.
"Who did?" her husband asked.
"The Vicomte de Brie."
"Damned little monkey," cried Geoffrey, "I'll break every miserable
bone in his pretence of a body."
"Oh, no, no," protested Asako, "let us go away from here at once. Let
us go to Switzerland, anywhere."
The serpent had got into the garden, but he had not been a very adroit
reptile. He had shown his fangs; and the woman had promptly bruised
his head and had given him an eye like an Impressionist sunset, which
for several days he had to hide from the ridicule of his friends.
But Asako too had been grievously injured in the innocence of her
heart; and it took all the snow winds of the Engadine to blow away
from her face the hot defilement of the man's breath. She clung
closely to her husband's protection. She, who had hitherto abandoned
herself to excessive amiability, barbed the walls of their violated
paradise with the broken glass of bare civility. Every man became
suspect, the German professors culling Alpine plants, the mountain
maniacs with their eyes fixed on peaks to conquer. She had no word
for any of them. Even the manlike womenfolk, who golfed and rowed and
clambered, were to her indignant eyes dangerous panders to the lusts
of men, disguised allies of _Madame Cythere_.
"Are they all bad?" she asked Geoffrey.
"No, little girl, I don't suppose so. They look too dismal to be bad."
Geoffrey was grateful for the turn of events which had delivered up
his wife again into his sole company. He had missed her society more
than he dared confess; for uxoriousness is a pitiful attitude. In
fact, it is Bad Form.
At this period he wanted her as a kind of mirror for his own mind and
for his own person. She saw to it that his clothes were spotless and
that his tie was straight. Of course, he always dressed for dinner
even when they dined in their room. She too would dress herself up in
her new finery for his eyes alone. She would listen to him laying down
the law on subjects which he would not dare broach were he talking
to any one else. She flattered him in that silent way which is so
soothing to a man of his character. Her mind seemed to absorb his
thoughts with the readiness of blotting paper; and he did not pause to
observe whether the impression had come out backwards or forwards. He
who had been so mute among Lady Everington's geniuses fell all of a
sudden into a loquaciousness which was merely the reaction of his love
for his wife, the instinct which makes the male bird sing. He just
went on talking; and every day he became in his own estimation and in
that of Asako, a more intelligent, a more original and a more eloquent
_Nagaki yo no
To no nemuri no
Nami nori fune no
Oto no yoki kana_.
From the deep sleep
Of a long night
Sweet is the sound
Of the ship as it rides the waves.
When August snow fell upon St. Moritz, the Barringtons descended to
Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome. Towards Christmas they found their
way to the Riviera, where they met Lady Everington at Monte Carlo,
very indignant, or pretending to be so, at the neglect with which she
had been treated.
"Fairy godmothers are important people," she said, "and very easily
offended. Then, they turn you into wild animals, or send you to sleep
for a hundred years. Why didn't you write to me, child?"
They were sitting on the terrace with the Casino behind them,
overlooking the blue Mediterranean. A few yards farther on, a tall,
young Englishman was chatting and laughing with a couple of girls too
elaborately beautiful and too dazzlingly gowned for any world but the
half-world. Suddenly he turned, and noticed Lady Everington. With a
courteous farewell to his companions, he advanced to greet her.
"Aubrey Laking," she exclaimed, "you never answered the letter I wrote
to you at Tokyo."
"Dear Lady Georgie, I left Tokyo ages ago. It followed me back to
England; and I am now second secretary at Christiania. That is why I
am in Monte Carlo!"
"Then let me introduce you to Asako Fujinami, who is now Mrs.
Barrington. You must tell her all about Tokyo. It is her native city;
but she has not seen it since she was in long clothes, if Japanese
babies wear such things."
Aubrey Laking and Barrington had been at Eton together. They were old
friends, and were delighted to meet once more. Barrington, especially,
was pleased to have this opportunity to hear about Japan from one who
had but lately left the country, and who was moreover a fluent and
agreeable talker. Laking had not resided in Japan long enough to get
tired of orientalism. He described the quaint, the picturesque, the
amusing side of life in the East. He was full of enthusiasm for the
land of soft voices and smiling faces, where countless little shops
spread their wares under the light of the evening lanterns, where the
twang of the _samisen_ and the _geisha's_ song are heard coming from
the lighted tea-house, and the shadow of her helmet-like _coiffure_
is seen appearing and disappearing in silhouette against the paper
* * * * *
The East was drawing the Barringtons towards its perilous coasts.
Laking's position at the Tokyo Embassy had been taken by Reggie
Forsyth, one of Geoffrey's oldest friends, his best man at his wedding
and a light of Lady Everington's circle. Already, Geoffrey had sent
him a post-card, saying, "Warm up the _sake_ bottle," (Geoffrey
was becoming quite learned in things Japanese), "and expect friends
However, when the Barringtons did at last tear themselves from the
Riviera, they announced rather disingenuously that they were going to
"They are too happy," Lady Everington said to Laking a few days later,
"and they know nothing. I am afraid there will be trouble."
"Oh, Lady Georgie," he replied, "I have never known you to be a
prophetess of gloom. I would have thought the auspices were most
"They ought to quarrel more than they do," Lady Everington complained.
"She ought to contradict him more than she does. There must be a
volcanic element in marriage. It is a sign of trouble coming when the
fires are quiet."
"But they have got plenty of money," expostulated Aubrey, whose
troubles were invariably connected with his banking account, "and they
are very fond of each other. Where is the trouble to come from?"
"Trouble is on the lookout for all of us, Aubrey," said his companion,
"it is no good flying from it, even. The only thing to do is to look
it in the face and laugh at it; then it gets annoyed sometimes, and
goes away. But those two poor dears are sailing into the middle of it,
and they don't even know how to laugh yet."
"You think that Egypt is hopelessly demoralising. Thousands of people
go there and come safely home, almost all, in fact, except Robert
"Oh no, not in Egypt," said Lady Everington; "Egypt is only a
stepping-stone. They are going to Japan."
"Well, certainly Japan is harmless enough. There is nobody there worth
flirting with except us at the Embassies, and we generally have our
hands full. As for the visitors, they are always under the influence
of Cook's tickets and Japanese guides."
"Aubrey dear, you think that trouble can only come from flirting or
"I know that those two preoccupations are an abundant source of
"What do you think of Mrs. Barrington?" asked her Ladyship, appearing
to change the subject.
"Oh, a very sweet little thing."
"Like your lady friends in Tokyo, the Japanese ones, I mean?"
"Not in the least. Japanese ladies look very picturesque, but they are
as dull as dolls. They sidle along in the wake of their husbands, and
don't expect to be spoken to."
"And have you no more intimate experience?" asked Lady Everington.
"Really, Aubrey, you have not been living up to your reputation."
"Well, Lady Georgie," the young man proceeded, gazing at his polished
boots with a well-assumed air of embarrassment, "since I know that you
are one of the enlightened ones, I will confess to you that I did keep
a little establishment _a la_ Pierre Loti. My Japanese teacher thought
it would be a good way of improving my knowledge of the local
idiom; and this knowledge meant an extra hundred pounds to me for
interpreter's allowance, as it is called. I thought, too, that it
would be a relief after diplomatic dinner parties to be able to swear
for an hour or so, big round oaths in the company of a dear beloved
one who would not understand me. So my teacher undertook to provide me
with a suitable female companion. He did. In fact, he introduced me
to his sister; and the suitability was based on the fact that she
held the same position under my predecessor, a man whom I dislike
exceedingly. But this I only found out later on. She was dull, deadly
dull. I couldn't even make her jealous. She was as dull as my Japanese
grammar; and when I had passed my examination and burnt my books, I
"Aubrey, what a very wicked story!"
"No, Lady Georgie, it was not even wicked. She was not real enough to
sin with. The affair had not even the excitement of badness to keep it
"Do you know the Japanese well?" Lady Everington returned to the
highroad of her inquiry.
"No, nobody does; they are a most secretive people."
"Do you think that, if the Barringtons go to Japan, there is any
danger of Asako being drawn back into the bosom of her family?"
"No, I shouldn't think so," Laking replied, "Japanese life is so very
uncomfortable, you know, even to the Japs themselves, when once they
have got used to living in Europe or America. They sleep on the floor,
their clothes are inconvenient, and their food is nasty, even in the
houses of the rich ones."
"Yes, it must be a peculiar country. What do you think is the greatest
shock for the average traveller who goes there?"
"Lady Georgie, you are asking me very searching questions to-day. I
don't think I will answer any more."
"Just this one," she pleaded.
He considered his boots again for a moment, and then, raising his face
to hers with that humorous challenging look which he assumes when on
the verge of some indiscretion, he replied,--
"Yes," said her Ladyship, "I have heard of such a place. It is a kind
of Vanity Fair, isn't it, for all the _cocottes_ Of Tokyo?"
"It's more than that," Laking answered; "it is a market of
human flesh, with nothing to disguise the crude fact except the
picturesqueness of the place. It is a square enclosure as large as a
small town. In this enclosure are shops, and in the shop windows
women are displayed just like goods, or like animals in cages; for the
windows have wooden bars. Some of the girls sit there stolidly like
stuffed images, some of them come to the bars and try to catch hold of
the passers-by, just like monkeys, and joke with them and shout after
them. But I could not understand what they said--fortunately, perhaps.
The girls,--there must be several thousands--are all dressed up in
bright kimonos. It really is a very pretty sight, until one begins to
think. They have their price tickets hung up in the shop windows, one
shilling up to one pound. That is the greatest shock which Japan has
in store for the ordinary tourist."
Lady Everington was silent for a moment; her flippant companion had
become quite serious.
"After all," she said, "is it any worse than Piccadilly Circus at
"It is not a question of better or worse," argued Laking. "Such a
purely mercenary system is a terrible offence to our most cherished
belief. We may be hypocrites, but our hypocrisy itself is an admission
of guilt and an act of worship. To us, even to the readiest sinners
among us, woman is always something divine. The lowest assignation
of the streets has at least a disguise of romance. It symbolises
the words and the ways of Love, even if it parodies them. But to the
Japanese, woman must be merely animal. You buy a girl as you buy a
Lady Everington shivered, but she tried to live up to her reputation
of being shocked by nothing.
"Well, that is true, after all, whether in Piccadilly or in the
Yoshiwara. All prostitution is just a commercial transaction."
"Perhaps," said the young diplomat, "but what about the Ideal at the
back of our minds? Passion is often a grotesque incarnation of the
Ideal, like a savage's rude image of his god. A glimpse of the ideal
is possible in Piccadilly, and impossible in the Yoshiwara. The divine
something was visible in Marguerite Gautier; little Hugh saw it even
in Nana. For one thing, here in London, in the dirtiest of sordid
dramas, it is still the woman who gives, but in Japan it is always the
man who takes."
"Aubrey," said his friend, "I had no idea that you were a poet, or in
other words that you ever talked nonsense without laughing. You think
such a shock is strong enough to upset the Barrington _menage_?"
"It will give furiously to think," he answered, "to poor old Geoffrey,
who is a very straight, clean and honest fellow, not overused to
furious thinking. I suppose if one married a monkey, one might
persuade oneself of her humanity, until one saw her kindred in cages."
"Poor little Asako, my latest god-daughter!" cried Lady Everington.
"Really, Aubrey, you are very rude!"
"I did not mean to be," said Laking penitently. "She is a most
ingratiating little creature, like a lazy kitten; but I think it is
unwise for him to take her to Japan. All kinds of latent orientalisms
* * * * *
The spring was at hand, the season of impulse, when we obey most
readily the sudden stirrings of our hearts. Even in the torrid climate
of Egypt, squalls of rain passed over like stray birds of passage.
Asako Barrington felt the fresh influence and the desire to do new
things in new places. Hitherto she had evinced very little inclination
to revisit the home of her ancestors. But on their return from the
temples of Luxor, she said quite unexpectedly to Geoffrey,--
"If we go to Japan now, we shall be in time to see the
"Why, little Yum Yum," cried her husband, delighted, "are you tired of
"Egypt is very interesting," said Asako, correctly; "it is wonderful
to think of these great places standing here for thousands and
thousands of years. But it makes one sad, don't you think? Everybody
here seems to have died long, long ago. It would be nice to see green
fields again, wouldn't it, Geoffrey dearest?"
The voice of the Spring was speaking clearly.
"And you really want to go to Japan, sweetheart? It's the first time
I've heard you say you want to go."
"Uncle and Aunt Murata in Paris used always to say about now, 'If we
go back to Japan we shall be in time to see the cherry-blossoms.'"
"Why," asked Geoffrey, "do the Japanese make such a fuss about their
"They must be very pretty," answered his wife, "like great clouds of
snow. Besides, the cherry-flowers are supposed to be like the Japanese
"So you are my little cherry-blossom--is that right?"
"Oh no, not the women," she replied, "the men are the
Geoffrey laughed. It seemed absurd to him to compare a man to the
frail and transient beauty of a flower.
"Then what about the Japanese ladies," he asked, "if the men are
Asako did not think they had any special flower to symbolise their
charms. She suggested,--
"The bamboo, they say, because the wives have to bend under the storms
when their husbands are angry. But, Geoffrey, you are never angry. You
do not give me a chance to be like the bamboo."
Next day, he boldly booked their tickets for Tokyo.
The long sea voyage was a pleasant experience, broken by fleeting
visits to startled friends in Ceylon and at Singapore, and enlivened
by the close ephemeral intimacies of life on board ship.
There was a motley company on board _S.S. Sumatra_; a company
whose most obvious elements, the noisy and bibulous pests in the
smoking-room and the ladies of mysterious destination with whom
they dallied, were dismissed by Geoffrey at once as being terrible
bounders. Beneath this scum more congenial spirits came to light,
officers and Government officials returning to their posts, and a few
globe-trotters of leisure. Everybody seemed anxious to pay attention
to the charming Japanese lady; and from such incessant attention it
is difficult to escape within the narrow bounds of ship life. The
only way to keep off the impossibles was to form a bodyguard of the
possibles. The seclusion of the honeymoon paradise had to be opened up
for once in a way.
Of course, there was much talk about the East; but it was a different
point of view, from that of the enthusiasts of Deauville and the
Riviera. These men and women had many of them lived in India, the
Malay States, Japan, or the open ports of China, lived there to earn
their bread and butter, not to dream about the Magic of the Orient.
For such as these the romance had faded. The pages of their busy lives
were written within a mourning border of discontent, of longing for
that home land, to which on the occasion of their rare holidays they
returned so readily, and which seemed to have no particular place or
use for them when they did return. They were members of the British
Dispersion; but their Zion was of more comfort to them as a sweet
memory than as an actual home.
"Yes," they would say about the land of their exile, "it is very
But their faces, lined or pale, their bitterness and their reticence,
told of years of strain, laboriously money-earning, in lands where
relaxations are few and forced, where climatic conditions are adverse,
where fevers lurk, and where the white minority are posted like
soldiers in a lonely fort, ever suspicious, ever on the watch.
* * * * *
The most faithful of Asako's bodyguard was a countryman of her own,
Viscount Kamimura, the son of a celebrated Japanese statesman and
diplomat, who, after completing his course at Cambridge, was returning
to his own country for the first time after many years.
He was a shy gentle youth, very quiet and refined, a little
effeminate, even, in his exaggerated gracefulness and in his
meticulous care for his clothes and his person. He avoided all company
except that of the Barringtons, probably because a similarity in
circumstances formed a bond between him and his country-woman.
He had a high, intellectual forehead, the beautiful deep brown eyes of
Asako, curling, sarcastic lips, a nose almost aquiline but starting a
fraction of an inch too low between his eyes. He had read everything,
he remembered everything, and he had played lawn tennis for his
He was returning to Japan to be married. When Geoffrey asked him who
his fiancee was, he replied that he did not know yet, but that his
relatives would tell him as soon as ever he arrived in Japan.
"Haven't you got any say in the matter?" asked the Englishman.
"Oh yes," he answered, "If I actually dislike her, I need not marry
her; but, of course, the choice is limited, so I must try not to be
too hard to please."
Geoffrey thought that it must be because of his extreme aristocracy
that so few maidens in Japan were worthy of his hand. But Asako asked
"Why is the choice so small?"
"You see," he said, "there are not many girls in Japan who can speak
both English and French, and as I am going into the Diplomatic Service
and shall leave Japan again shortly, that is an absolute necessity;
besides, she must have a very good degree from her school."
Geoffrey could hardly restrain himself from laughing. This idea of
choosing a wife like a governess for her linguistic accomplishments
seemed to him exceedingly comic.
"You don't mind trusting other people," he said, "to arrange your
marriage for you?"
"Certainly not," said the young Japanese, "they are my own relatives,
and they will do their best for me. They are all older than I am, and
they have had the experience of their own marriages."
"But," said Geoffrey, "when you saw your friends in England choosing
for themselves, and falling in love and marrying for love's sake--?"
"Some of them chose for themselves and married barmaids and divorced
persons, just for the reason that they were in love and uncontrolled.
So they brought shame on their families, and are probably now very
unhappy. I think they would have done better if they had let their
relatives choose for them."
"Yes; but the others who marry girls of their own set?"
"I think their choice is not really free at all. I do not think it is
so much the girl who attracts them. It is the plans and intentions of
those around them which urge them on. It is a kind of mesmerism. The
parents of the young man and the parents of the young girl make the
marriage by force of will. That also is a good way. It is not so very
different from our system in Japan."
"Don't you think that people in England marry because they love each
other?" asked Asako.
"Perhaps so," replied Kamimura, "but in our Japanese language we have
no word which is quite the same as your word Love. So they say we
do not know what this Love is. It may be so, perhaps. Anyhow Mr.
Barrington will not wish to learn Japanese, I think."
Geoffrey liked the young man. He was a good athlete, he was unassuming
and well-bred, he clearly knew the difference between Good and Bad
Form. Geoffrey's chief misgiving with regard to Japan had been a doubt
as to the wisdom of making the acquaintance of his wife's kindred. How
dreadful if they turned out to be a collection of oriental curios with
whom he would not have one idea in common!
The company of this young aristocrat, in no way distinguishable from
an Englishman except for a certain grace and maturity, reassured him.
No doubt his wife would have cousins like this; clean, manly fellows
who would take him shooting and with whom he could enjoy a game of
golf. He thought that Kamimura must be typical of the young Japanese
of the upper classes. He did not realize that he was an official
product, chosen by his Government and carefully moulded and polished,
not to be a Japanese at home, but to be a Japanese abroad, the
qualified representative of a First Class Power.
Kamimura left the boat with them at Colombo and joined them in their
visit to some tea-planting relatives. He was ready to do the same at
Singapore, but he received an urgent cable from Japan recalling him at
"I must not be too late for my own wedding," he said, during their
last lunch together at Raffles's Hotel. "It would be a terrible sin
against the laws of Filial Piety."
"Whatever is that?" asked Asako.
"Dear Mrs. Barrington, are you a daughter of Japan, and have never
heard of the Twenty-four Children?"
"No; who are they?"
"They are model children, the paragons of goodness, celebrated because
of their love for their fathers and mothers. One of them walked miles
and miles every day to get water from a certain spring for his sick
mother; another, when a tiger was going to eat his father, rushed to
the animal and cried, 'No, eat me instead!' Little boys and girls in
Japan are always being told to be like the Twenty-four Children."
"Oh, how I'd hate them!" cried Asako.
"That is because you are a rebellious, individualistic Englishwoman.
You have lost that sense of family union, which makes good Japanese,
brothers and cousins and uncles and aunts, all love each other
publicly, however much they may hate each other in private."
"That is very hypocritical!"
"It is the social law," replied Kamimura. "In Japan the family is the
important thing. You and I are nothing. If you want to get on in the
world you must always be subject to your family. Then you are sure
to get on however stupid you may be. In England you seem to use your
families chiefly to quarrel with."
"I think our relatives ought to be just our best friends," said Asako.
"They are that too in a way," the young man answered. "In Japan it
would be better to be born without hands and feet than to be born
Akashi no ura no
Fune wo shi zo omou._
My thoughts are with a boat
Which travels island-hid
In the morning-mist
Of the shore of Akashi
After Hongkong, they let the zone of eternal summer behind them. The
crossing from Shanghai to Japan was rough, and the wind bitter. But on
the first morning in Japanese waters Geoffrey was on deck betimes to
enjoy to the full the excitement of arrival. They were approaching
Nagasaki. It was a misty dawn. The sky was like mother-of-pearl,
and the sea like mica. Abrupt grey islands appeared and disappeared,
phantasmal, like guardian spirits of Japan, representatives of those
myriads of Shinto deities who have the Empire in their keeping.
Then, suddenly from behind the cliff of one of the islands a fishing
boat came gliding with the silent stateliness of a swan. The body of
the boat was low and slender, built of some white, shining wood; from
the middle rose the high sail like a silver tower. It looked like the
soul of that sleeping island setting out upon a dream journey.
The mist was dissolving, slowly revealing more islands and more boats.
Some of them passed quite close to the steamer; and Geoffrey could see
the fishermen, dwarfish figures straining at the oar or squatting at
the bottom of the boat, looking like Nibelungen on the quest for the
Rhinegold. He could hear their strange cries to each other and to the
steamer, harsh like the voice of sea-gulls.
Asako came on deck to join her husband. The thrill of returning to
Japan had scattered her partiality for late sleeping. She was dressed
in a tailor-made coat and skirt of navy-blue serge. Her shoulders were
wrapped in a broad stole of sable. Her head was bare. Perhaps it was
the inherited instinct of generations of Japanese women, who never
cover their heads, which made her dislike hats and avoid wearing them
The sun was still covered, but the view was clear as far as the high
mountains on the horizon towards which the ship was ploughing her way.
"Look, Asako, Japan!"
She was not looking at the distance. Her eyes were fixed on an emerald
islet half a mile or less from the steamer's course, a jewel of the
seas. It rose to the height of two hundred feet or so, a conical
knoll, densely wooded. On the summit appeared a scar of rock like a
ruined castle, and, rising from the rock's crest, a single pine-tree.
Its trunk was twisted by all the winds of Heaven. Its long, lean
branches groped the air like the arms of a blinded demon. It seemed to
have an almost human personality an expression of fruitless striving,
pathetic yet somehow sinister--a Prometheus among trees. Geoffrey
followed his wife's gaze to the base of the island where a shoal of
brown rocks trailed out to seawards. In a miniature bay he saw a tiny
beach of golden sand, and, planted in the sand, a red gateway, two
uprights and two lintels, the lower one held between the posts, the
upper one laid across them and protruding on either side. It is
the simplest of architectural designs, but strangely suggestive.
It transformed that wooded island into a dwelling-place. It cast
an enchantment over it, and seemed to explain the meaning of the
pine-tree. The place was holy, an abode of spirits.
Geoffrey had read enough by now to recognize the gateway as a
"_torii_"; a religious symbol in Japan which always announces the
neighbourhood of a shrine. It is a common feature of the country-side,
as familiar as the crucifix in Catholic lands.
But Asako, seeing the beauty of her country for the first time, and
unaware of the dimming cloud of archaeological explanations, clapped
her hands together three times in sheer delight; or was it in
unconscious obedience to the custom of her race which in this way
calls upon its gods? Then with a movement entirely occidental she
threw her arms round her husband's neck, kissing him with all the
devotion of her being.
"Dear old Geoffrey, I love you so," she murmured. Her brown eyes were
full of tears.
* * * * *
The steamer passed into a narrow channel, a kind of fiord, with wooded
hills on both sides. The forests were green with spring foliage. Never
had Geoffrey seen such a variety or such density of verdure. Every
tree seemed to be different from its neighbour; and the hillsides were
packed with trees like a crowded audience. Here and there a spray of
mountain cherry-blossom rose among the green like a jet of snow.
At the foot of the woods, by the edge of the calm water, the villages
nestled. Only roofs could be seen, high, brown, thatched roofs with a
line of sword-leaved irises growing along the roof-ridge like a crown.
These native cottages looked like timid animals, cowering in their
forms under the protecting trees. One felt that at any time an
indiscreet hoot of the steamer might send them scuttering back to
the forest depths. There were no signs of life in these submerged
villages, where the fight between the forester's axe and primal
vegetation seemed still undecided. Life was there; but it was hidden
under the luxuriance of the overgrowth, hidden to casual passers-by
like the life of insects. Only by the seaside, where the houses were
clustered together above a seawall of cyclopean stones, and on the
beach, where the long narrow boats, sharp-prowed and piratical, were
drawn up to the shore, the same gnome-like little men, with a generous
display of naked brown limbs, were sawing and hammering and mending
The steamer glided up the fiord towards a cloud of black smoke ahead.
Unknown to Geoffrey, it passed the grey Italianate Catholic cathedral,
the shrine of the old Christian faith of Japan planted there by Saint
Francis Xavier four hundred years ago. Anchor was cast off the island
of Deshima, now moored to the mainland, where during the locked
centuries the Dutch merchants had been permitted to remain in
profitable servitude. Deshima has now been swallowed up by the
Japanese town, and its significance has shifted across the bay to
where the smoke and din of the Mitsubishi Dockyard prepare romantic
visitors for the modern industrial life of the new Japan. Night and
day, the furnace fires are roaring; and ten thousand workmen are
busy building ships of war and ships of peace for the Britain of the
The quarantine officers came on board, little, brown men in uniform,
absurdly self-important. Then the ship was besieged by a swarm
of those narrow, primitive boats called _sampan_, which Loti has
described as a kind of barbaric gondola, all jostling each other to
bring merchants of local wares, damascene, tortoise-shell, pottery and
picture post cards aboard the vessel, and to take visitors ashore.
Geoffrey and Asako were among the first to land. The moment of arrival
on Japanese soil brought a pang of disappointment. The sea-front at
Nagasaki seemed very like a street in any starveling European town.
It presented a line of offices and consulates built in Western style,
without distinction and without charm. Customs' officers and policemen
squinted suspiciously at the strangers. A few women, in charge of
children or market-baskets, stared blankly.
"Why, they are wearing kimonos!" exclaimed Asako, "but how dirty and
dusty they are. They look as though they had been sleeping in them!"
The Japanese women, indeed, cling to their national dress. But to
the Barringtons, landing at Nagasaki, they seemed ugly, shapeless and
dingy. Their hair was greasy and unkempt. Their faces were stupid
and staring. Their figures were hidden in the muffle of their dirty
garments. Geoffrey had been told they have baths at least once a day,
but he was inclined to doubt it. Or else, it was because they all
bathed in the same bath and their ablutions were merely an exchange
of grime. But where were those butterfly girls, who dance with fan and
battledore on our cups and saucers?
The rickshaws were a pleasant experience, the one-man perambulators;
and the costume of the rickshaw-runners was delightful, and their
gnarled, indefatigable legs. With their tight trunk-hose of a coarse
dark-blue material and short coat to match like an Eton jacket and
with their large, round mushroom hats, they were like figures from the
crowd of a Flemish Crucifixion.
Behind the Barrington's _sampan_, a large lighter came alongside the
wharf. It was black with coal-dust, and in one corner was heaped
a pile of shallow baskets, such as are used in coaling vessels at
Japanese ports, being slipped from hand to hand in unbroken chain
up the ship's side and down again to the coal barge. The work was
finished. The lighter was empty except for a crowd of coal-stained
coolies which it was bringing back to Nagasaki. These were dressed
like the rickshaw-men. They wore tight trousers, short jackets and
straw sandals. They were sitting, wearied, on the sides of the barge,
wiping black faces with black towels. Their hair was long, lank and
matted. Their hands were bruised and shapeless with the rough toil.
"Poor men," sighed Asako, "they've had hard work!"
The crowd of them passed, peering at the English people and chattering
in high voices. Geoffrey had never seen such queer-looking fellows,
with their long hair, clean-shaven faces, and stumpy bow-legs. One
more disheveled than the others was standing near him with tunic
half-open. It exposed a woman's breast, black, loose and hard like
"They are women!" he exclaimed, "what an extraordinary thing!"
But the children of Nagasaki--surely there could be no such
disillusionment. They are laughing, happy, many-coloured and
ubiquitous. They roll under the rickshaw wheels. They peep from behind
the goods piled on the floors of the shops, a perpetual menace to
shopkeepers, especially in the china stores, where their bird-like
presence is more dangerous than that of the dreaded bull. They are
blown up and down the temple-steps like fallen petals. They gather
like humming-birds round the itinerant venders of the streets, the old
men who balance on their bare shoulders their whole stock in trade of
sweetmeats, syrups, toys or singing grasshoppers. They are the dolls
of our own childhood, endowed with disconcerting life. Around their
little bodies flames the love of colour of an oriental people, whose
adult taste has been disciplined to sombre browns and greys. Wonderful
motley kimonos they make for their children with flower patterns,
butterfly patterns, toy and fairy-story patterns, printed on
flannelette--or on silk for the little plutocrats--in all colors,
among which reds, oranges, yellows, mauves, blues and greens
They invaded the depressing atmosphere of the European-style hotel,
where Geoffrey and Asako were trying to enjoy a tasteless lunch--their
grubby, bare feet pattering on the worn lino.
It pleased him to watch them, playing their game of _Jonkenpan_
with much show of pudgy fingers, and with restrained and fitful
scamperings. He even made a tentative bid for popularity by throwing
copper coins. There was no scramble for this largesse. Gravely and
in turn each child pocketed his penny; but they all regarded Geoffrey
with a wary and suspicious eye. He, too, on closer inspection found
them less angelic than at first sight. The slimy horror of unwiped
noses distressed him, and the significant prevalence of scabby scalps.
* * * * *
After their dull lunch in this drab hotel, Geoffrey and his wife
started once more on their voyage of discovery. Nagasaki is a hidden
city; it flows through its narrow valleys like water, and follows
their serpentine meanderings far inland.
They soon left behind the foreign settlement and its nondescript
ugliness to plunge into the labyrinth of little native streets,
wayward and wandering like sheep-tracks, with sudden abrupt hills
and flights of steps which checked the rickshaws' progress. Here, the
houses of the rich people were closely fenced and cunningly hidden;
but the life of poverty and the shopkeepers' domesticity were flowing
over into the street out of the too narrow confines of the boxes which
they called their homes.
With an extra man to push behind, the rickshaws had brought them up a
zigzag hill to a cautious wooden gateway half open in a close fence of
"Tea-house!" said the rickshaw man, stopping and grinning. It was
clearly expected of the foreigners that they should descend and enter.
"Shall we get out and explore, sweetheart?" suggested Geoffrey. They
passed under the low gate, up a pebbled pathway through the sweetest
fairy garden to the entrance of the tea-house, a stage of brown boards
highly polished and never defiled by the contamination of muddy boots.
On the steps of approach a collection of _geta_ (native wooden clogs)
and abominable side-spring shoes told that guests had already arrived.
Within the dark corridors of the house there was an immediate
fluttering as of pigeons. Four or five little women prostrated
themselves before the visitors with a hissing murmur of "_Irasshai_!
(Condescend to come!)."
The Barringtons removed their boots and followed one of these ladies
down a gleaming corridor with another miniature garden in an enclosed
courtyard on one side, and paper _shoji_ and peeping faces on the
other, out across a further garden by a kind of oriental Bridge of
Sighs to a small separate pavilion, which floated on a lake of green
shrubs and pure air, as though moored by the wooden gangway to the
main block of the building.
This summer-house contained a single small room like a very clean box
with wooden frame, opaque paper walls, and pale golden matting. The
only wall which seemed at all substantial presented the appearance of
an alcove. In this niche there hung a long picture of cherry-blossoms
on a mountain side, below which, on a stand of dark sandalwood,
squatted a bronze monkey holding a crystal ball. This was the only
ornament in the room.
Geoffrey and his wife sat down or sprawled on square silk cushions
called _zabuton_. Then the _shoji_ were thrown open; and they looked
down upon Nagasaki.
It was a scene of sheer enchantment. The tea-house was perched on a
cliff which overhung the city. The light pavilion seemed like the
car of some pullman aeroplane hovering over the bay. It was the brief
half-hour of evening, the time of day when the magic of Japan is at
its most powerful. All that was cheap and sordid was shut out by
the bamboo fence and wrapped away in the twilight mists. It was a
half-hour of luminous greyness. The skies were grey and the waters of
the bay and the roofs of the houses. A grey vapour rose from the town;
and a black-grey trail of smoke drifted from the dockyards and from
the steamers in the harbour. The cries and activities of the city
below rose clear and distinct but infinitely remote, as sound of the
world might reach the Gods in Heaven. It was a half-hour of fairyland
when anything might happen.
Two little maids brought tea and sugary cakes, green tea like bitter
hot water, insipid and unsatisfying. It was a shock to see the girls'
faces as they raised the tiny china teacups. Under the glaze of their
powder they were old and wise.
They observed Asako's nationality, and began to speak to her in
"Their politeness is put on to order," thought Geoffrey, "they seem
forward and inquisitive minxes."
But Asako only knew a few set phrases of her native tongue. This
baffled the ladies, one of whom after a whispered consultation and
some giggling behind sleeves, went off to find a friend who would
solve the mystery.